How Well are We Fighting Childhood Obesity?

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How are we doing so far in the fight against childhood obesity? That was the question the Institute of Medicine (IOM) asked and attempted to answer in a report released yesterday entitled Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up? If you watched any news at all yesterday I’m sure you heard about this report.

I don’t think it’s a secret that we do have a problem with childhood obesity in the US, but do you know how staggering it really is? According to the report over the past 3 decades childhood obesity has tripled for our 12-19 year olds and quadrupled for our 6-11 year olds! It’s gotten quite out of hand with 1 in 3 American kids either obese or on their way. On the positive side there are some good programs out there addressing the obesity crisis, but the IOM says there aren’t enough and they are scattered here and there all over the country. Furthermore, many of the programs haven’t been evaluated properly to determine if they are indeed working. The report also states that not nearly enough dollars are being doled out to combat this problem and that needs to change!

The IOM’s report addresses ways everyone can come together to reverse this epidemic. And that’s where you come in. The media, government (make funds for programs a priority!!!) industry etc. have to do their part too, but there are lots of things you can do as a parent and care giver. Here are just some of the recommendations (straight out of the report with a few comments from me) the IOM has designated as the most important steps families can take in fighting this epidemic:

  • Parents and caregivers should make physical activity and healthful eating priorities at home (a no brainer but we’ve got to actually do it!). They should:
  • Provide food and beverage choices for their children that contribute to a healthful diet (i.e. avoid high calorie, low on nutrition junk food),
  • Encourage and support physical activity,
  • Limit children's television viewing and other recreational screen time (that includes computer time and video games),
  • Serve as positive role models (in other words do as you want them to do).
  • Parents can also serve as advocates to promote changes that encourage and support healthy behaviors in their local schools and communities.
  • Families should regularly assess their progress in adopting and maintaining healthful behaviors at home and achieving positive lifestyle changes (ask yourself -how we doin'?).
  • Parents should work with their child’s physician to track body mass indices and healthy growth (track your child’s weight over time to determine if he is in the appropriate range).*

There’s lots more and if you’re interested in what role the IOM asks the media, government, healthcare sector, schools, communities and industry to take in order to solve this problem click here for the full report. Let me know your thoughts and if you think the report is on target or if it has missed the boat anywhere along the line.

*Source: Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up? Institute of Medicine, September 2006

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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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